Hempfield's 2nd-half eruption foils Connellsville
Through the first half, the Connellsville boys basketball team played step-for-step with host Hempfield in a Section 1-AAAA showdown Friday night. But in the second half, the Spartans' Kason Harrell and Logan Hunter helped turn a close game into a runaway.
Harrell scored a game-high 27 points, and Hunter added 19 points as the Spartans (4-1, 3-0) pulled away for a 71-55 victory. It was Hempfield's third straight win. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Falcons (4-2, 1-1).
Connellsville won't play again until it competes in the West Allegheny Tournament next Friday.
“We're going to go back and use the time and take this experience and learn from it,” Connellsville coach Dan Bosnic said. “We'll get better from this game.”
The Falcons took a 17-14 lead heading into the second quarter. Mike Parlak buried a 3-pointer, and Jimmy Leichliter scored on a breakaway layup to give Connellsville the early advantage. Leichliter finished with a team-high 20 points.
But in the second quarter, the Spartans began to assert themselves on defense.
Meanwhile, Harrell and Hunter were just starting to heat up. Harrell made three field goals in the second quarter, and Hunter and Michael Nauman followed with a pair of baskets.
Hempfield took a 34-28 lead into the half.
“We did a tremendous job of attacking gaps and pushing out in transition,” Hempfield coach Mark Marino said. “It was a team effort, and it started with rebounding.”
Trent Bauer, who got into foul trouble early, hit back-to-back baskets early in the third quarter to pull the Falcons within 39-38.
But that's when Harrell and Hunter started to take over. Harrell spun in the lane and scored on a layup. Hunter followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Spartans a 53-40 lead heading into the fourth.
In the fourth, Harrell scored 10 straight points, including two on a dunk.
Hempfield rolled to 63-42 advantage and never looked back.
“(Harrell) made a lot of big plays in a short period of time,” Bosnic said. “That extended their lead, and that was the difference in the game. He penetrated our zone and got Hunter some open looks, and that really hurt us.”
While Hempfield was hitting big shots, the Falcons went into a second-half scoring funk, particularly in the third quarter.
Bauer and Caleb Pittsment each finished with eight points.
“We played the first half without our big guy (Bauer), and we battled,” Bosnic said. “But we went through stretches where we couldn't put the ball in. We have to convert the shots around the rim that we are capable of making.”
Making those shots was not a problem for Hempfield.
“They came in on a three-game win streak, and they are dangerous,” Marino said of Connellsville. “They are well-coached and have versatile kids, and you can see why it was a tight game (in the first half). But we were just fortunate enough to make some shots.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.